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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation into the nature of first language dissociation, and its causes in Japanese-English late plurilinguals Moore, Ashley Russell


Despite common-sense assumptions that the bond between a person and their mother tongue is inviolable when they spend their childhood as a monolingual user of the dominant societal language, some Japanese people who became users of English after childhood (late plurilinguals, or LPs) have reported a wish to distance themselves from their first linguaculture, Japanese. In this study, I used critical realist grounded theory method to construct theory that explains the nature and causes of this phenomenon. Analysing the linguistic (auto)biographies of 17 LP participants, I conceptualised the phenomenon as first language dissociation (FLD). I defined FLD as a relatively enduring psychosocial process through which a person distances themselves from their L1 because of its entanglement with, and subsequent connotation of, perceived impediments to their current or future flourishing. I identified a complex set of push/pull causes operating at various levels of the psychosocial world that form the causal mechanism for FLD among Japanese-English LPs. Causes that pushed the participants away from the Japanese linguaculture included intersubjective conflict with norms associated with the Japanese linguaculture or with Japanese-speaking significant others (a conflictive state I termed contrasubjectivity), and self-Orientalist linguaculture ideologies, often inculcated through language education. These push causes result in a form of negative affect: undesire. Undesire adheres to a once-desired object—in this case, Japanese—that has come to connote illbeing, and compels one to distance oneself from it. Concurrently, the onset of acquisition of a second language—English, with its attendant ideologies—opens up a psychological mirror dimension that promises greater intersubjective harmony, or prosubjectivity. This contrast between the negative affective valence of the Japanese linguaculture and the positive affective valence of the English linguaculture intensifies over time and is further amplified as those experiencing FLD engage in a variety of distancing behaviours. Finally, I established the conditions under which some Japanese-English LPs who have experienced FLD might reassociate with their first linguaculture. I conclude the dissertation by summarising my theory, reflecting on the strengths and limitations of the study, and discussing its implications for the fields of applied linguistics, multilingualism and critical language pedagogy.

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